Human Interest

Micro-preemie, born smaller than a Barbie doll, goes home in time for Mother’s Day


A family has been reunited just in time for Mother’s Day, after micro-preemie River Wilson graduated from the NICU on Monday.

Last year, Jessica Wilson went into labor at just 19 weeks pregnant, after experiencing preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM). Thankfully, doctors were able to stop labor, but she was admitted to The Birth Center at Wake Forest Baptist as staff tried to keep River in her womb for as long as possible. He was eventually born at just 25 weeks, weighing one pound, 11 ounces, and measuring smaller than the size of a Barbie doll.

“Babies like River, born at 25 weeks – almost 4 months early – can have a lot of complications,” Corbin Downey, a neonatologist at Wake Forest Baptist, said in a hospital press release. “This is because their organ systems, from their brain to their lungs, are not yet fully developed. These babies stay with us in the NICU for several months and it’s very rewarding to watch them grow and conquer so many obstacles and then get strong enough to go home.”

Thankfully, Wilson was at the Dale and Karen Sisel NICU, a level IV NICU which has the tools and experience to care for preemies as young as 22 weeks. Premature babies face many medical challenges, but as medicine advances, they’ve been surviving at younger and younger ages, and are even more likely to make it if given active care instead of just palliative care.

READ: ‘Exciting’ new research on infants’ lungs could make a lifesaving difference for preemies

Though River is strong and thriving now, he was so fragile at first that Wilson couldn’t even hold him; it was 32 days before that was possible. And it would ultimately take 169 days — almost six months — before the family could go home. “For 169 days, I stared out the NICU window and wondered when this day would actually happen,” Wilson said in the press release. River wasn’t able to meet his two big sisters, Ridgely and Murphy, until he was able to go home, but the family’s reunion came at the perfect time. And when he left, the NICU nurses lined the hallways in celebration.

“This day has always felt so far away, but it’s here now and it’s the ultimate Mother’s Day gift,” she said. “I remember when he was still in his incubator I would tell him we’d see his discharge day, no matter what. The bonds that I have made with the staff here are just unbreakable. They took care of and saved my son and now because of them, his next chapter is starting.”

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